The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) took one giant step closer to a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. The path to the playoff will have to take a quick stop in Charlotte, because Clemson will stopping there to play in the ACC Championship Game at the end of the season regardless of what happens in the next three weeks. Clemson wrapped up possession of the ACC Atlantic Division with a 23-13 victory Saturday over nemesis and rival Florida State.
Clemson took its second lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Greg Huegel kicked his third field goal of the game, this latest one from 34 yards out for a 16-13 lead. The only touchdown of the game for Clemson came in the third quarter, with Deon Cain taking a short pass from Deshaun Watson 38 yards to the house for a 13-10 lead on the first drive of the second half. The defense then was asked to come up with a huge stop after a good special teams return by Florida State’s Kermit Whitfield gave the Seminoles possession at the Clemson 49-yard line. Clemson’s defense answered the call, stuffing Florida State’s Dalvin Cook for no gain on fourth down at the Clemson 40-yard line, one years shy of the first down marker. That set up Clemson for the knockout blow, which was delivered by Wayne Gallman by way of a 25-yard rushing touchdown up the middle of the field on Florida State’s defense. The touchdown run came one play after Watson completed a seven-yard pass to Charone Peake to pick up a third down conversion. The final nail in the coffin for the Seminoles came on the ensuing possession when Ben Boulware forced the ball out of the hands of Travis Rudolph, which Clemson recovered.
Clemson had to battle back to get the win, as the Tigers got off to a sluggish start against Florida State. The Seminoles took an early lead on the second play fo the game when Cook rattled off a 75-yard touchdown run, and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the second possession of the game just minutes later. But Clemson managed to tighten up as the game played out, and Cook was without a big run for most of the night after the first five minutes of the game. Cook ended his day with 194 yards and the one touchdown.
This was the first time Clemson won a football game as the number one team in the country since the 1981 season. That season the Tigers were ranked number one in the AP top 25 after playing the final game of the regular season and defeated Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. That makes this the first time Clemson won a game in the regular season as the top-ranked team in program history.
Florida State has one remaining ACC contest to play before closing out the regular season with two non-conference games. Next week the Seminoles host North Carolina State. Clemson will hit the road next week to visit Syracuse. The Tigers wrap up ACC regular season play the next week at home against Wake Forest.